Rendezvous
rating: +6+x

WHOMP

Josef fell down on the ground, making a dull thud in the process. He lifted himself up groggily, and was greeted with the familiar concrete walls of Level 1. He'd been here for almost 2 years, and yet, he'd never quite gotten used to noclipping, which to his great dismay, caused him to be made fun of countless times.

He began to make his way to Tom's diner, which was where he'd arranged a meeting with one of his friends, Megumi, who he'd known for quite some time now, to exchange information regarding the expedition he'd just made. Despite the fact that she was of a technically his boss, she still treated him like a friend rather than her worker. Passing by the Alpha Base, he continued through the lonely parking lots of the Level in a hurried pace, hoping he wouldn't get lost like last time.

Eventually, he arrived at the Diner and entered its doors. The familiar aroma of Tom's cooking was the first thing that hit him. The delicious plates always filled the entire Diner with an aromatic smell like no other in The Backrooms. The patrons all stood poised on barstools or sitting down at their own tables, each digging into a meal or sharing a drink with one of their companions. Josef scanned the room in search for Megumi, and found her on a table at the far end of the room reading a document which she seemed to be quite entranced in.

Megumi wasn't really a character you could miss. Wild black hair stood in contrast with her deathly pale coloration, extending to her waist in a haphazardly straight fashion. Josef was a good 5′10, yet she towered over him in size, and was much more muscular than him. Whenever she was occupied with work as she was now, she always wore an intimidating, stoic expression, which masked the big jokester that was inside. She spoke with a distinctive Japanese accent, oftentimes speaking too quickly to be understood, but Josef had gotten used to her so it was no problem for him.

He made his way to her table and lightly tapped her on the shoulder. She jumped in her seat, startled, turned around, saw it was only him, and immediately loosened up. She smiled at him and beckoned him to sit opposite her, which he did hastily.

Megumi was one of the first people Josef had met during his time in The Backrooms. When he'd somehow made it through Level 0 by accidentally noclipping into a wall while being chased by an entity, she was the first person he'd encountered. She'd taken him to the Diner, on the exact table they were on now, and after a riveting discussion explaining his situation, had convinced him to join the M.E.G. Throughout the 2 years he'd been here, she was his closest companion, and just so happened to be his boss.

"Took you long enough" She chimed the moment he'd taken his seat at the table. "Can I get you anything?"

"A glass of water or two would be nice" He replied. "I never want to walk that distance again. They weren't joking when they said this place was infinite, do you know how long it took me to get there?"

She shrugged. "Quite a lot without a doubt, but orders are orders…" She smiled cheekily at her own joke as he groaned. He'd heard it about a trillion times now. "You do realize you make those rules, right?" He replied. "Why don't you ever give me anything actually interesting to do? Walking a bajillion miles gets rather boring after a while, especially after your batteries die out."

She furrowed her eyebrows. "How would that happen? You'd have to be using your phone for that to…" She paused, looked at him sternly, and suddenly exploded. "Josef! You are not supposed to be using your phone on scouting missions! A distraction like that could get you killed, and you're just doing it recklessly like that! What in the seven blazes were you thinking of?"

There she went again, he thought as he rolled his eyes. "It's not my fault all the missions you guys give me are boring as shit!" He said as a waiter passed by to take his order. He turned to face him and told him what he wanted. The whole time, Megumi gave him a glare from her dark, narrow eyes. It was times like this that he was reminded how intimidating she could be when she wanted to.

"For the last time Josef, if you want more interesting jobs, you have to prove your worth at the workplace, and not do these kinds of things. They'll earn you no favours with the higher-ups and you'll remain a scout the same way you've been for the past 2 years!" She grumbled at him. "You could've found something interesting to report on, and then you'd have lost it forever just cause you couldn't focus on your work properly!"

Suddenly it hit him. Something like that had happened. He'd almost forgotten to tell her about all that had just unfolded earlier that day.

"WAIT! Shit, I did find something whilst I was there- hold on just a moment." He rummaged through his bag in search of the paper as she gave him a quizzical look. He then took out the notepad (Which had crumpled up as soon as he had smashed his way into the level) and handed it to her, showing her what he'd written. She quickly glanced over the page, and when she was done, looked up at him, clearly confused and moreso annoyed.

"Is this a joke?" She blurted out. "Josef, you did get the information you needed to get right? You didn't just slack off and write nonsense during the entire time you were out 'doing a mission', right!?"

All of Josef's enthusiasm died out in a single instant when he saw her pissed like that. "W-what? No, no! I have that in my bag as well, I just found this by chance on my way there and thought it would be worth-" "Please Josef, don't waste my time like this, just give me the work you were supposed to do and we can chit-chat about chance encounters later."

He sighed, and began to take out the work he was originally supposed to give her. "I did see it though, I'm not messing with you!" He looked back up and handed his work to an unimpressed Megumi. "Yeah yeah, when I see it with my eyes, I'll believe you". That was the end of that topic as it seemed. Whatever that thing was, he wouldn't get her to acknowledge it now.

She took a look at his work, occasionally glancing back at him as if making sure he was still there. The waiter brought him a piping hot plate of ravioli, his favourite, and he began to eat his well-deserved meal. After a while, Megumi carefully put his files in a satchel she'd brought with her. He assumed he'd done a sufficient job, seeing as she was in a considerably better mood than the one she'd been in before.

"You are easily distracted and totally immature, but you do a good job when it comes to documenting at least." She said with a slight smile. "Great job, I'll keep you in mind when we need someone else to go to the Manila room…"

Josef immediately hardened at the thought. Just like that, from being all angry and intimidating, she had now burst into a fit of laughter at his reaction of utter dismay. "Just kidding! You totally fell for it haha!" She spent some more time laughing and finally quietened down. "Although, jokes aside…" She said after she composed herself. "Tell you what, seeing the good work you've just done, I think I'd have a deal you might be interested in regarding your situation…"

"Go on…" Josef said, enticed.

"If you agree not to do any more of your time-wasting bullshit and actually get a bit serious about your job, I could try negotiating for you to be sent with an actual team to document some other levels, keyword try though. Does that sound like a good offer to you?" She said as she looked at him with a raised brow.

This was it, the offer he'd been waiting for during all his time working under the M.E.G, a chance to actually get the recognition he (Somewhat) deserved. He grinned widely from ear to ear, and practically screamed a cheerful "Yes!" as Megumi smiled at his reaction. "I've been waiting for someone to actually tell me this for so long, thank you thank you THANK YOU!"

He got up from his chair and did a bit of an awkward celebratory dance. Some people were looking at him, but at this point he couldn't really care less. In his ecstasy, he almost forgot about the encounter with the void. Something about it had embedded a feeling of terror deep within him, and a certain nameless fear had awoken inside. He stopped celebrating for a moment and looked back at Megumi, who had been watching him celebrate for a while now.

"Hey Meg, about that thing I showed you earlier…" he began. "I know you were pissed earlier so you didn't pay it much attention, but I really did see something, and whilst it's not exactly something big, I'm kinda worried about it. Could you at least try and forward it to some other people so we could, you know… get some attention to it, maybe get some other tests running?"

She sighed deeply. "Listen, Josef, I'm not saying I don't believe you, but all you have to present for this thing even existing is a bunch of notes and a lackluster drawing of it, no offence intended. For now, I can't just present this crumpled piece of paper to my higher-ups, and you're probably never gonna come across it ever again. This should serve you as a lesson to maybe not use up all of your phone's battery at once, so if this happens again you can actually prove this thing happened, you know?"

He sighed. Just about what he expected. "Alright then, I guess." He was about to sit back down, but paused mid-way as a new question came to his mind. "Hey Meg, do you think this thing could pose a threat in any way?"

Megumi stared at her empty plate, thinking long and hard. "Honestly, I'm not that sure. It could just be the work of one of those reality-eating bugs that prowl around The Backrooms, or the work of some entity we've never heard of, you'd never know. Just don't think too much about it for now ok?"

Josef smiled weakly. "Yeah, I guess, I'll try not to worry about it too much." Megumi returned the smile to him. "That's the spirit! Come on now, we've got another hour here before we're both called to duty again, let's make the most of it!"

And so they did. They spent the next hour drinking and joking and generally having fun. He decided to just try and forget about it for the time being. After all, it wasn't like this thing posed that much of a threat, right? It would take it ages to eat at Level 0, if it could even spread that far, And how would it even get to other levels? Maybe Megumi was right, it was just another one of the oddities that this hellhole he was stuck in had conjured. These thoughts comforted him. Yet, Josef just couldn't shake the feeling that something was off, and that something very, very bad had just begun to take place…


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